Mask up

Kent Maaurp, left, the third for the Trevor Bonot rink, wears a mask during recent Tbaytel major league curling action as lead Troy Avis sweeps. On Monday, it was made official that masks will be mandatory on the ice at Port Arthur Curling Club.

The lockdown of rules around COVID-19 are tightening up at local curling clubs in response to the recent spike in cases in Thunder Bay this week.

Starting Monday, the Port Arthur Curling Club will make the wearing of face masks mandatory during play on the ice. This is in addition to the previous rules of having to wear masks while in the club.

It is expected the other two clubs — Fort William Curling Club and the Kakabeka Falls Curling Club could follow suit with masks required while playing, although at this time, it is not a directive of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

The Tbaytel Major League of Curling returns to the Port Arthur club on Nov. 25, and league officials are letting players know that they will have to wear masks on for their entire game. The rule is sure to impact sweepers making it more difficult to breath, but players will adjust if they want to have the opportunity to play.

“With the rise in COVID cases in Thunder Bay, the major league executive has decided to make masks mandatory on ice level at both curling clubs until further notice,” was a communique sent to all major league curlers Tuesday afternoon.

Furthermore, if anyone is showing any COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone you know that has tested positive for (the virus), we ask that you please stay home to quarantine, said Bryan Burgess, the league’s executive member.

The impacts of COVID-19 on curling are being felt across the country. This past weekend, World Curling Tour events were held in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Penticton, B.C., without incident.

Brad Gushue, the reigning Brier champion won the 16-team Atlantic bubble event, while Mike McEwen of Winnipeg defeated Glenn Howard of Ontario at the 18-team cashspiel played in the B.C. interior.

Meanwhile, an event in Okotoks, Alta., involving Canada’s top women’s teams was shutdown on the day it started.

The shutdown in Okotoks does not bode well for the Calg !ary bubble scenario being talked about to potentially host the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and the Tim Hortons Brier as TV-only events later this winter. Curling Canada has made no official announcement on its two major Canadian championships with the Scotties still listed for Fort William Gardens, Feb. 20-28.

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MAJOR LEAGUE TONIGHT: The Tbaytel Major League of Curling resumes round robin play with Draw 8 in the 14-team competitive league featuring four games at the Kakabeka Falls Curling Club tonight at 6:30 p.m.

Two key games to watch involve Trevor Bonot and Al Hackner. Bonot is riding a hot three-game win streak after back-to-back wins over previously unbeaten teams skipped by Dylan Johnston and Frank Morissette.

Bonot will once again have Joel Adams subbing in for Kent Maarup at third when his rink, that includes Andrew Hackner and Troy Avis on the front end, takes on the veteran Mike Pozihun. Bonot shoots for a fourth straight win after two losses to start the season while Pozihun and his veteran rink of Dennis Malette, Rob Shubat and Andy Peloza desperately need a win, sporting a 1-3 record.

Meanwhile, Hackner (4-1) has an opportunity to take over sole possession of first-place with a win as the other skips he is tied with (Johnston, Morissette and Krista McCarville) have the night off.

Hackner and lead Gary Champagne, who have played most of the season with spares, shoot for their fifth win of the season against Bryan Burgess. Burgess and his Kakabeka Falls Curling Club rink sit at 3-2 after snapping a two-game skid last week.

Elsewhere, Gary Weiss and Ben Mikkelsen meet in a clash of former Northern Ontario club curling champions. Weiss, and his squad of Deron Surkan, Aaron Rogalski and Mark Blanchard, won the Region Two playoffs before COVID-19 cancelled the provincial playdowns last spring.

Mikkelsen is the reigning provincial club champion having played the nationals in Leduc, Alta., a year ago. Weiss enters play with a 3-2 record while Mikkelsen sits at 2-3.

Rounding out the four game draw, Mike Desilets’ senior squad look to improve on a 2-2 record against Mike McCarville. McCarville has got off a rough start with only one win in five starts.

If you have information that you want to share in this weekly curling column, please email John Cameron at johncameron14-@gmail.com or call 631-3032.

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